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June 29, 2011

Google's Last Attempt To Launch a Facebook Killer

Remember Google Buzz?  Orkut, or Google Wave.? All these products were touted to be the next big thing in social media ultimately ended  up as Google's Biggest Failures. Either Google has learnt nothing from them or it has learned  " awfully lot" from them.

On Tuesday, Google introduced a social networking service called The Google+ project — which happens to look a lot like Facebook. The service, which is initially available to a select group of Google users who will soon be able to invite others, will let people share and discuss status updates, photos and links, much as they do on Facebook.

But the Google+ project will be different in one significant way, which Google hopes will be enough to convince people to use yet another social network.

It is meant for sharing with groups — like colleagues, roommates or hiking friends — not with all of one’s friends or the entire Web. It also offers group text messaging and video chat.

“In real life, we have walls and windows and I can speak to you knowing who’s in the room, but in the online world, you get to a ‘Share’ box and you share with the whole world,” said Bradley Horowitz, a vice president for product management at Google, who is leading the company’s social efforts with Vic Gundotra, a senior vice president for engineering. “We have a different model.”

Google has been criticized for failing to understand the importance of social information on the Web until competitors like Facebook and Twitter had already leapt ahead.

Part of the blame, analysts say, falls on Google’s engineering-heavy culture, which values quantitative data and algorithms over more abstract pursuits like socializing.

When users visit their Google+ home page, they see three columns and a stream of status updates in the middle that looks remarkably like Facebook. But Google said that besides an easier way to share with select groups, Google+ has several other features that distinguish it from competitors.

It offers group video chats, called Hangouts, that other members of a group can join as it is happening. Users can search a section called Sparks to see articles and videos from across the Web on certain topics, like recipes or ailments, and share them with relevant groups of friends.

And on the Google+ mobile app for Android phones and iPhones, people can chat with groups using a feature called Huddle. Photos and videos shot with cellphones are automatically uploaded to a private album, so Google+ users can quickly view and post them from their phones or later on a computer.



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The debut of Google+ will test whether Google can overcome its past stumbles in this area and deal with one of the most pressing challenges facing the company. At stake is Google’s status as the most popular entry point to the Web. When people post on Facebook, which is mostly off-limits to search engines, Google loses valuable information that could benefit its Web search, advertising and other products.

New York Times commenting on  Google's new Social Media initiative writes that Facebook users are unlikely to duplicate their network of friends on Google+ and post to both sites, but that they could use them for different types of communication. Google+ could also attract Facebook holdouts who have been uncomfortable sharing too publicly.

However Industry watchers  feels that "Google+ may already be too late". In May, 180 million people visited Google sites, including YouTube, compared with 157.2 million on Facebook,      according to comScore. But Facebook users looked at 103 billion pages      and and    spent an average of 375 minutes on the site, while Google users viewed 46.3 billion pages and spent 231 minute